The AMG story
The AMG story begins in the mid 60’s when Mercedes engineers, Hands Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher started working on a race engine with the development department at Daimler Benz. This race motor would be used in the Mercedes 300 SE sedan, which at the time was the fastest production car in Germany. But at the track, it was a different story. So Melcher fitted the fuel injection system from a 300 SL Gullwing onto the SE’s engine, which boosted output to 238 horsepower. But before they had a chance to show off the new engine, Daimler Benz shut down the race team.
They put the motor in a 300 SE sedan, and entered it in the German Touring Car Championship. They didn’t have any support from Mercedes, in fact, they weren’t even supposed to be working on the car. But the risk payed off, because their secret race car went on to win ten races. The next year, Warner left Mercedes. What good was working for a company that wouldn’t let him express himself with his art?
Their names were Aufrecht and Melcher, and they were working at Aufrecht’s house in Grossaspach (AMG). Their goal was to use what they learned at the track to make road cars faster. As far as they were concerned, Mercedes were still the best. AMG’s first big project was to turn another 300 SE sedan into a race car. But this one was different, this one was big. The 300 SEL was Merc’s flagship luxury model powered by an enormous 6.3 liter V8 engine. Powerful enough to make the 300 SEL the fastest sedan in the world. But the SEL was over 16 feet long and weighed 3,800 pounds. AMG tore the SEL’s engine apart and replaced everything inside. Pistons, rockers, a new cam shaft. The new engine now had a displacement of 6.8 liters and it made 428 horsepower. But the motor wasn’t the only thing they changed. They replaced the doors with ones made from aluminum to increase grip. They widened the wheel track to keep the giant tires from poking out. The 300 SEL made its debut at the 1971 in Belgium. It won its class and finished second overall. AMG had proven they could win without the support from Mercedes. After the victory, AMG had some serious cred. So everyone wanted them to modify their Mercedes.
Though the 70’s, AMG became the go-to guys if you wanted a bad-ass Mercedes. And by the 80’s, nobody in the world had a better reputation than AMG. But in 1986, AMG would drop a “bomb” on the automotive scene in the form of the most brutal sedan ever devised. AMG took a 300 SE sedan, pulled out that 6-cylinder engine, and installed a heavily-modified V8. They also tweaked the body to be more aerodynamic and aggressive. They installed bigger brakes, and gave it some super cook looking five-spokes. One auto journalist called AMG’s new car about as subtle as a hammer. The AMG Hammer did 0-60 in five seconds, and it had a top speed of 178 mph. To this day, the Hammer is one of AMG’s crowning achievements. After the Hammer’s huge success, Mercedes contacted AMG. So they worked out a contract with the former employees , so Mercedes could sell AMG cars at their delearship around the world. Mercedes wasn’t the only partnership that AMG would make. The Mitsubishi Galant was a four-door sedan with a 4-cylinder and was even offered in all-wheel drive. It was basically the Evo before the Evo. Mitsubishi hip up AMG to have them do some work on the Galant.
The Galant AMG was front-wheel drive and, unlike the Evo, naturally aspirated. But it had the same motor, the 4G63. They also gave the Galant the standard AMG treatment with body tweaks and new wheels. Only 500 were ever made and all of them were sold in Japan.
The first car developed in the new Mercedes AMG contract partnership, was the C36 AMG. This new sedan was aimed squarely at the BMW M3. And even used the straight-six engine like its Bavarian counterpart. In 1998, the C36 got an upgrade in the C43 which returned to AMG’s which returned to AMG’s V8 roots. For their entire history, every single one of AMG’s V8 engines has been hand-built. Each of the 250 people currently working at the AMG engine plant, has their own set of tools and each craftsmen builds one engine at a time from start to finish. They’re so good at it that it only takes them about three hours to complete an engine. After each engine is built, the final step is placing and individualized placard on the intake with the engine builder’s signature.
In 1999, Mercedes bought a majority interest in AMG, which means they were still free to do whatever they wanted as long as it was only on Mercedes-Benz models. One of the first “official” cars AMG would build for Mercedes was another race car for the road, the CLK GTR. The race version was develop in 1997 for FIA GT Championship. And the rules required that 25 road legal cars had to be built. But after two years, the series was canceled and AMG decided to build the cars anyway. The CLK GTR was not powered by a V8 like AMG’s previous cars, but a 6.9-liter, V12 capable of 604 horsepower and a top speed of 214 mhp. After the car ended production, Mercedes would keep building the V12 for Pagani, who used it in their Zonda and Huayra supercars. Only one man at AMG is certified to build it. His workspace is sectioned off from everybody else.
The 2005 E55 AMG Wagon was the car for you. It was the ultimate sleeper. From the outside it looked like typical suburban kid-hauler. The only clues being the AMG and Kompressor badges. But if you looked under the hood, you find a hand-built 5.4-liter supercharged V8. Through all of AMG’s life, they stayed true to their philosophy of building performance models of any Mercedes. Unlike BMW’s M-division who only focus on cars with lateral agility. What this means is that there are a ton of AMG versions of cars you wouldn’t expect. Like the R63, a V8 minivan with over 500 horsepower. There’s even an A45 AMG, a hatchback with over 355 horsepower and all-wheel drive. But the craziest AMG of them all, by far, is the G63 AMG 6x6.
From modest beginnings building engines out of a garage in Germany, to designing the most incredible hyper-car ever. The AMG story is one of precision, perseverance, and building absolute sledgehammers out of sophisticated sedans.